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Israelis and Palestinians Fight Over LGBTQ... and Tahini

In yet another episode of the theater of the absurd, the Palestinian LGBTQ group al-Qaws, which was founded in 2007 but recently banned by the Palestinian Authority amid a crackdown on LGBTQs in the areas under their rule, has held a rally in the Israeli city of Haifa against Israeli oppression. That's right - the country that allows them to exist freely is then accused of being the ones who oppress them (as opposed to the actual oppression from their own government - and don't get started on what Hamas in Gaza does to them).

Part of this stems from a recent decision by an Arab-Israeli tahini company to make a recent donation to an Israeli LGBTQ organization to set up a hotline in Arabic to aid Arabs who are citizens of and living in Israel. Apparently al-Qaws felt that the donation should have gone to them (or the one other Palestinian LGBTQ group) as they work in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (except of course that they are banned in the Palestinian Authority). The idea that - God forbid - there could be more than one (or two) organizations helping a distressed population is revolutionary to some, apparently.

The issue, however, really comes down to identity. Many Israeli Arabs go by the moniker Palestinians living in Israel and they identity as Palestinian. So while I may see this as an Israeli organization getting money to help Israelis - and to be inclusive of minorities and their needs - they see it as Israelis (read: Jews) getting money to play the savior for Palestinian LGBTQs and "pinkwash" [see below] the occupation. Even if, of course, the people in question are not occupied and are living in Israel. Or are they?

If you note their press release they talk about "occupied Haifa." Haifa is a town in Israel. So what do they mean "occupied?" The simple truth - which people abroad often like to ignore - is that for Palestinians, Israel is occupying all of the land - not just the West Bank. That's right, while the international media - and Israelis - like to talk about 1967 [i.e. Israel's conquering/liberating/occupying the West Bank and Gaza], all the Palestinians talk about is 1948 - i.e. all of the land. That is essentially the crux of the problem - that the Palestinians don't think Israel has the right to exist in any part of the land. The issue has never been the creation of a Palestinian state - the Jewish leadership since 1937 has agreed to partition what was left of the Palestine Mandate after the British gave 78% of it to the Arabs to create what was then TransJordan back in the early 1920's. It has always been the Arabs' refusal to recognize a Jewish state - and their right to and history in a state - in any territory.

As far as "pinkwashing," this is the insane idea that Israel uses its tolerance and openness in regards to the LGBTQ population in order to wash over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Any objective person can look at the situation and say:

a) Israel has not treated its own Arab citizens fairly over the years though the situation has steadily been improving [and they have more rights than in pretty much any Arab country]

b) Israel has at times treated the Palestinians unfairly as well (as they have also done to Israelis)

c) Israel still has a ways to go when it comes to true LGBTQ equality - but it laps the field when it comes to Middle Eastern countries

d) Every country in the world has not treated its minority population fairly [and often still does] - not that this excuses anything, but it does put it into perspective.

e) Saying that a country tries to wash over its record in one area by promoting its successes in another area is on one hand true (everyone likes to put their best foot forward) but on the other hand ridiculous. Countries are dynamic and diverse and run the gamut of a whole host of issues and experiences. They will be better in some areas and have challenges in others.

f) Nobody ever claims that the USA tries to wash over its school to prison pipeline and biased justice system by promoting its entertainment industry. Nobody says that Brazil is washing its environmental policy by promoting its tourism industry. And nobody says that France is pinkwashing its treatment of its Roma population by promoting its LGBTQ-friendly laws. For some reason, this criticism begins - and ends - with Israel. I think you can guess what that reason is...

For more on the all the hubbub (the first two from their perspective), click here:

Just note that they are full of choice words like "colonial" and "apartheid" and "patriarchy" which are meant to create sympathy but are not really representative of what is going on. It's also full of false allegations such as the donation to the Israeli LGBTQ organization being to help Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank when it was about those who are citizens in Israel.

If you read critically - which you should anything and everything (even those by your trusty tour guide of Israel) - you will notice the real issues here:

"In a response on Twitter to a thread posted by al-Qaws, Adam Rasgon, the journalist who wrote the story, said that the New York Times "didn't 'erase' any Palestinian organisation".

"[Maikey] refused to comment unless we promised not to interview any Israeli Jews for the article. Such constraints on the independence of our reporting are unacceptable," he wrote."

- Basically the head of al-Qaws did not want any Israeli - again, read Jewish - voice to be present in the article lest she, her organization and her constituency be seen as collaborators with Israel.

“They have used this issue to promote themselves. They took a big social issue and put the gay community at risk.”

- Here a Palestinian LGBTQ activist fears that the donation by the Israel-Arab tahini company to an Israeli LGBTQ organization will put the gay community at risk [from their own Palestinian society/government] as in addition to already unjustly being seen as deviant and un-Islamic, they will be seen as collaborators as well.

And there you have it. No cooperation. Can't even share an article with an Israeli Jew. Share the land? Forget it. It's all occupied. And that is the real problem.

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